The Supreme Court has ruled that the right to gun ownership applies nationwide. The High Court's decision is a response to a challenge of gun ban in Chicago and one of its suburbs, and comes two years after the justices struck down a law in Washington, D.C. banning possession of handguns.
The five-to-four decision resulted from a case against the city of Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park. Both have laws that effectively ban handgun possession by almost all private citizens.
The lead plaintiff in the Chicago case, Otis McDonald, challenged the law after he said criminals broke into his home and made repeated threats.
"At least the playing fields will be leveled," he said. "I don't have to be concerned about the young dealers and gang-bangers coming in my house, because I believe now that they think twice."
In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense, striking down a Washington, D.C. law that banned the possession of handguns in the home.
Monday's ruling said that right applies also to state and local gun control laws.
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said he expects criminals convicted of gun charges to use Monday's ruling to challenge their convictions.
But the court offered little guidance on what type of gun control can be allowed.
"But even though we're going to see a lot more lawsuits, I remain very confident that most of those gun laws are going to be quickly upheld," Helmke said.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said guns in the home - even for self-defense - kill innocent people. "I don't think America should be known for 'we could kill more people than any other nation.' We love to kill, we can kill overseas, we export more guns than anybody else, and we buy more guns than anybody else, and ammunition," Daley said. "That should not be known as a great country."
In issuing its ruling, the Supreme Court sent the case back to Chicago for a lower court to issue the final decision, so the gun ban remains temporarily in effect.
Mayor Daley says the city will rewrite its gun ordinance to comply with Second Amendment rights, but he offered no explanation of how that might be achieved.